Priest Notes Efficacy of Jesuit Chinese Mission

Recalls Work of Father Matteo Ricci

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ROME, MAY 11, 2011 ( The strategies used by Jesuit missionaries in China present a relevant and efficient way to spread the Gospel message, says Father Klaus Schatz.

This was the topic of a conference given last week by the priest at the Pontifical Gregorian University, as part of a series of talks on «Conversion. A Change of God? Experiences and Reflections on the Interreligious Dialogue.»

Father Schatz, who is presently based at the Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Sankt Georgen of Frankfurt, Germany, was one of the presenters at this series organized by the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies of Religion and Culture (ISIRC) of the Gregorian University.

The priest referred to the example of Father Matteo Ricci, a founder of the mission in China that lasted through the 17th and 18th centuries, H2O News reported.

He reflected on the missionary’s strategy, beginning with winning over the elite ruling class in an effort to gain the trust of the emperor and his court, the official interpreters of religion in that country.

In this way the Jesuits aimed to counteract the popular belief systems that included idolatry, superstition and magic.

In order to reach out to the political and cultural leaders, the missionaries used Western sciences and technology such as astronomy.

The novelty that they presented, Father Schatz noted, was that in Christianity every person could have a direct and immediate relationship with God.

This was a rare concept in China at that time, when the emperor was believed to be the only one who could offer sacrifices to heaven.

Father Schatz said that the Jesuit methods were criticized by other Catholic groups who distanced themselves from politics and science, and yet Father Ricci’s work brought results.

He noted that in Korea, for example, the local Church began not through preaching or direct contact with missionaries, but through literature, when a group read «The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven» by Father Ricci.

Father Ricci, who died in 1610, is currently recognized as a Servant of God.

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